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Crime Beat

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Crime Beat: A suitable job for Lucy Khambule

In this, the final instalment of this series on women detectives, I’ll be looking at Angela Makholwa’s PR consultant, Lucy Khambule. This former journalist’s insatiable curiosity and her desire to write draw her into a dangerous tango with an infamous incarcerated serial killer. Today I’ll take a close look at Lucy as a female protagonist and how Makholwa portrays her as a woman and as an investigative figure.
Angela Makholwa

Lucy Khambule is a young, ambitious single mother. She is the only mother in the series although four-year-old Diseko is largely looked after by a nanny and when Lucy leaves her current job to go out on her own and start her own PR company, he is whisked off to her parents and visited on weekends.

For me, communication is at the heart of Lucy’s character. She longs to write and runs a lively PR company, effectively communicating brands and campaigns to the public. This kernel is what sets the tone for the type of crime novel we’re looking at. Rather than the tough violence and one (man) mission of the hard-boiled crime novel, Red Ink focuses on characters and their chilling relationships.

Lucy is an accessible character; she loves to jam to Bob Marley in the car and relaxes in long baths at home. We sympathise with her difficult circumstances and work and root for her to succeed alone. After a rough run of abusive boyfriends and failed relationships, the reader delights in the budding romance we witness. She’s thoroughly likeable, earnest and spunky if not always commonsensical and practical.

Lucy is our window into a world of equal parts glamour and greed. The social setting of the novel is that of the wealthy black yuppies of Jozi who frequent acid jazz bars and take weekend trips away to luxury game farms. Lucy’s best friend, Fundi, is an eccentric soap actress and has no trouble twisting Lucy’s arm for a night out. There are also corrupt politicians, psychopaths and people desperate to protect their money and reputation.

Lucy’s world has an interesting emphasis on women. In her new business, she employs only women. On her first visit to C-Max, the maximum security prison, she describes the surprisingly high proportion of women warders. She socialises mostly with women, her relationship with Karabo being reserved for when they got home to the bedroom. On the contrary, there are few likeable men in the novel. As Fundi jokes, “You are becoming the patron saint if weirdos, commitment-phobes and psychopaths!”(Page 65).

For me, Red Ink is so refreshing in that the almost all of the characters are black. This might seem a like a crude observation, but in a genre that is so young in a country only beginning to become comfortable with itself, our crime fiction is dominated by white writers and ‘white’ settings with sometimes obviously conscious attempts at representing a ‘Rainbow Nation’. Basically, I thoroughly enjoyed how the book was populated by nearly all black characters and the understated yet enormously refreshing perspective this allowed: that this is normal. I can’t wait for more and more young black writers to hit our South African scene and build on the all too few crime novels out there.

Red Ink

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Crime Beat: A suitable job for Lucy Khambule


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